I just returned from a terrific event at Christopher Newport University on Constitution Day — a debate with Professor John Yoo. While we were delighted by the large number of students who appeared to listen to the debate, we discussed the recent poll on the lack of knowledge of citizens. A recent poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) found that, in a survey of over 1,000 citizens, only a quarter were able to name all three branches of the federal government. We just discussed the poll showing that four out of ten Americans cannot name a single right under the first amendment. Once again, these polls leave us with the troubling prospect of a woefully uneducated public on their own government.
Of the rights in the first amendment, only 15 percent could name the freedom of religion, only 14 percent could name the freedom of the press, only 10 percent could name the right of assembly and only three percent could name the right to petition.
I am more concerned that only 26 percent of those polled had the basic education on the structure of our tripartite system of government. It is hard to see how citizens can defend their civil liberties with little knowledge of what those liberties are or how the government works.